5

I have recently started asking some more complex questions on which I have made partial but significant progress toward an answer since originally asking the question.

Can someone recommend good practices to use in describing the progress I have made? In particular I want to know the following:

  1. In general, (when) is it better to list progress in the form of comments, question edits, or proposed answers to myself?

  2. What practices can I use to best achieve the following?

    a. avoid cluttering my question and making it annoying/confusing for readers

    b. avoid the appearance that I consider my own research to be authoritative, given that the other users are often much more experienced/knowledgeable/competent/insightful

5

In general, (when) is it better to [...]

Going through one at a time.

list progress in the form of comments

Not recommended, unless it's a very trivial answer to someone else's comment (e.g. "No, X didn't help, but thanks for the suggestion.").

question edits

This is preferred. However, edits should not be called out explicitly (e.g. with "EDIT: New information goes here" or similar). Instead, incorporate the information into your existing question as if it were there all along. Anyone who wants to know where it came from can review the post history or timeline.

proposed answers to myself?

Situational. If you genuinely think that a particular technique actually works or a particular explanation is actually correct, self-answering may be appropriate. But if you know that an answer is wrong or doesn't work, posting it as an answer should attract downvotes. The answer box is for answers which you believe are right.

What practices can I use to best achieve the following?

a. avoid cluttering my question and making it annoying/confusing for readers

To some extent, this is a matter of style and rhetorical writing. I usually use a structure similar to the following:

How do I frobnicate a sprocket? (title is a clear and succinct description of what you want to know)

I've been trying to frobnicate a sprocket in order to make my widget accept sprocket handles. (give context for what you are trying to accomplish, or what you want to know, and why)

I know that you can frobnicate cogs by using a cog wrench, but that thing doesn't seem to fit very well on my sprockets, and when I try to twist it, it slips off. (briefly explain what you've tried or what information you already know, and why it was unsatisfactory)

I also read this other question about zarking a sprocket, but zarking and frobnicating are really two different things, so I don't think that helps me here. (if someone has pointed to a "possible duplicate," but you think it's not a duplicate, briefly explain why)

What is the recommended way to frobnicate a sprocket from a widget? (restate the opening question, with a slightly more specific phrasing compared to the title, and preferably in bold, so that answerers don't get confused by all the other text on the page and try to answer a different question from the one you asked)

b. avoid the appearance that I consider my own research to be authoritative, given that the other users are often much more experienced/knowledgeable/competent/insightful

If you phrase it as "Here's what I looked into, but it doesn't work or left me confused about X," then no one will assume that you consider it authoritative. If you did consider it authoritative, you would have written an answer instead, so most people should understand that you're just "showing your work."

| improve this answer | |
  • Thanks @Kevin! I will mark this as the answer tomorrow. – capet Oct 10 at 6:09
4

Personally, I'm a fan of "showing your work" - and updating your question substantially with what you've done is a great example of it.

It means folks are not going to waste their time suggesting something you know dosen't work (and others can follow along in your footsteps). Its a good way to roll comments into your post.

In this situation I ended up breaking up my question into functional blocks, talking about things I needed to try, things I had tried and so on, rather than chronological updates.

So - if its a reply to a comment, comment.

If it's something you found out yourself that doesn't invalidate a current answer - definitely edit your question. If it does, I'd suggest also commenting stating your findings and updating that you tried that. Thar saves folks time trying stuff you know doesn't work, especially if you can explain why...

If the solution you found to an problem isn't covered by an existing answer, summing up just what worked in an answer is an excellent way to sum up and share the findings you have.

If an existing answer partially covers the solution, then comment so folks can find the missing bits, or if its minor, consider editing.

| improve this answer | |
  • Thanks @Journeyman Geek! I love this answer too. – capet Oct 10 at 6:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .